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The best interface is no interface

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

I came across this cool product announcement by Foursquare a couple of days ago: 'Introducing Marsbot for AirPods, a new app that explores what is possible with audio AR. Think of it as a proactive walking assistant.'

'We are looking at headphones as widely-used augmented reality hardware. Marsbot for AirPods is a lightweight virtual assistant that proactively whispers local recommendations (and other fun snippets) into your headphones or earbuds as you’re walking around. We’ll pause your podcast and lower your music while we whisper something (and we’ll never interrupt a voice or video call).' The content is both, native foursquare content and UGC, new content that has been recorded by users using Marsbot.

This is the latest of several voice-first product announcements by tech companies this year (see this post 'Will I ever have to scroll much again?'). But this one is a bit different. It not only focuses on using voice as a content input format but also as an output format. In our Mangrove Voice Tech 2019 Report, I called this form of ambient software interactions the third wave of AI. I like how Dennis puts it:

  • 'Apps You Don’t Have To Use: We don’t believe 'the future of software' looks like someone endlessly flipping through Instagram or doomscrolling their way through Twitter.  Nor is it 100 different apps continuously sending notifications begging for your attention. We believe the future of software is apps that understand your context and surroundings, and apps that smartly nudge you when there is something interesting or important at your periphery.

  • Proactive Virtual Assistants: We always think of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant as the genies that live inside the magic lamps that are our phones. The problem is that the genie doesn’t come out unless you rub the magic lamp ('Hey Siri! Hey Alexa! Ok Google!'). But what if the genie was the one tapping you on the shoulder?'

I first got excited about voice as a format when I saw early user engagement metrics from mobile apps using it successfully for data input. While we are still in the early days of audio as a proactive and context-based output format, I am excited about what comes next. I am in touch with the first bold entrepreneurs building B2B and B2C products around it. If you are playing around with this format as well, please do reach out.

Last week, I was on a business trip to Munich. A friend was so kind as to invite me over for some local breakfast. You gotta love Bavaria!

Life is awesome,


Other content that I have found useful:

- A great review of the Chinese fintech giant Ant Group by the newsletter The Generalist. 'In a bumper IPO year, Ant may be the pick of the bunch. But it's a vast and convoluted business worth understanding better before making an investment decision.'

- Under Armour to sell MyFitnessPal for $345 million, after acquiring it in 2015 for $475 million. The company also announced that it will be winding down the Endomondo platform, which it also acquired at the same time for $85 million.

- Netflix is raising its prices again. The last time Netflix hiked prices was back in January of 2019, which sparked some cancellations even as it also boosted revenue growth.

- A cool marketplace framework by Boris: A simple 2×2 matrix for segmenting marketplace types, from the original product marketplaces like eBay to the emerging services marketplaces. Each of them has its challenges and opportunities...



Yannick Oswald
Yannick Oswald
Nov 02, 2020

Thanks Mirav! Can't wait to see what you are working on


Nov 02, 2020

Really enjoyed this! I'm working on a voice-first platform to improve diversity in Tech and it's great to see such positive momentum behind the medium.


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